Existential garage sale



I held my annual existential garage sale last Saturday. It was scheduled – rain or shine, with a set of core values or without – from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., although who can really know the nature of time as an abstract in a physical world? Certainly not those early birds who showed up at 7 o’clock looking for cheap fundamental truths and free will.

And I specifically said in the ad: “No rational egoists!”

Anyway, I always look forward to this sale to clear out a lot of outdated household goods and personal belief systems. I could just throw them in the trash, I suppose, but it feels much better to say goodbye to, for instance, youthful ambition if I can convince someone to give me three bucks for it.

And wicker. All that wicker. I don’t know how we ended up with so much wicker. So many baskets and wicker trays. Were they wedding gifts? Did our guests think, “No, candle holders are too impersonal. Let’s give them these wicker plate holders instead.”

So we had wicker out there on our table. And candle holders, of course. Children’s toys, rotary telephone, VHS videos, sexual desirability, all kinds of obsolete stuff. There’s always that pre-sale conundrum: do I get rid of it or not? Am I going to want it again? For example, I decided to hang onto my dignity for a little while longer. Ditto my vintage Star Wars action figures.

People are funny when it comes to existential garage sales. They’ll see the balloons and bust of Plato tied to the mailbox at the end of my driveway, and they’ll drive up the street. But they won’t get out of their cars. Instead, they’ll do the slow drive-by and just peer into my soul. I want to say, “Don’t be shy. I’m practically giving away quasi-socialist idealism, hardly used. And, look, a George Foreman Grill.”

Then there are the hagglers. But why? It’s a garage sale. Like trying to get through the day without dissolving in self-pitying tears, I’m not asking for much. For instance, a customer will come up to me with something cheap, like my sense of humour, and he’ll still want to cut the price in half. What a joke! So what if it was a little dirty…

Saturday, this guy said to me, “I’ll give you two dollars for your tolerance.” “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY YARD!” I shouted.

“Will you take 50 cents for this sense of apathy?” another guy asked me. “Whatever…” I said.

“How much do you want for your physical strength and vigour?” asked a woman. “I’m flexible,” I replied.

Someone asked me, “Do you have any doubts and anxieties?” “I do,” I said, “but I can’t get rid of them.”

A few people liked to barter with me. One guy said he would take a set of steak knives off my hands in exchange for offering me a sense of wisdom. “Hmmm, let me think about it,” I said, but he wandered off before I could close the deal, which just goes to show that he who hesitates is… uhh… a big old hesitater.

At the end of the day, I had managed to pass on a lot of my existential clutter. What didn’t sell I had to pack up and bring back inside, which was fine, mostly. For example, I’m glad I didn’t sell my emotional empathy because it turns out it still had a lot of sentimental value.

The only problem with holding an existential garage sale is that it tied me down for the day, which meant I couldn’t check out other people’s existential garage sales. And I could use a few things. Specifically, I’m searching for some inner peace. And a panini press.


A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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52 Responses to Existential garage sale

  1. garym6059 says:

    I will never understand professional yard sale shoppers who beat down something priced at a couple of bucks. Infuriates me!

  2. Ned's Blog says:

    The “soul-viewing drive-by” is the worst! I aways feel so degraded. Unless they come back and offer me a dollar for all those peacock feathers I’ve been holding on to for some reason.

  3. Lynn says:

    I have a funny story to share Ross. A friend of mine was having a yard sale & her patience was wearing quite thin as people continued to barter over already ridiculously priced stuff. She had a glass vase I think she might have been asking $2 for, & the person attempting to buy it kept challenging her on the cost. After a considerable amount of time, she stood by her price (most likely out of sheer frustration)but also knowing the buyer wanted this vase. At some point the buyer told her it wasn’t worth that much. She looked him straight in the eye & let it drop to the ground. As it smashed all over the sidewalk, she just shrugged her shoulders & replied “guess it’s not worth anything now!” I always remember here doing that. We laughed ourselves silly over it!

  4. List of X says:

    I don’t think it’s unfair that people offer you half the price for your sense of humor. I mean, it has been used pretty extensively.

  5. Ah, regardless of whether or not I ever buy anything, I always seem to have a few extra laughs tucked in my pocket after visiting you. How did they get there? I swear I didn’t steal them!

  6. ksbeth says:

    i think if you buy any two unmatched candleholders, (until 7pm only), they will throw in a free pack of mindfulness.

  7. markbialczak says:

    Candy is dandy, but wicker wears quicker. Oops. I guess I’d have to give away my memory of funny little sayings, Ross, or at least but it on the damaged rack. 🙂

  8. Paul says:

    Hilarious Ross. Thanks

  9. Doubts and anxieties? Maybe if you dress them up with a little compulsion you could sell them on eBay to ISIS. 🙂

  10. pieterk515 says:

    Garage sale…a strange concept to us. Can you sell in-laws as well? Annoying colleagues maybe?

  11. anawnimiss says:

    errrmm… how much is that wit for?

  12. One person’s existential junk is another person’s existential treasure? No, that doesn’t work. Everyone’s existential junk is everyone’s existential junk. How much for the George Foreman grill? I’ll include it in the check I’m sending.

  13. pinklightsabre says:

    Exercise equipment? Sand dumb-bells? How about remote controls, ham radios, unsent stationery handmade from some thoughtful relative-in-law who’s good with crafts, stay-at-home? I just can’t stand looking into that abyss of humanity, that scum that hangs around the edges. I’d sooner donate it, throw it out, leave it with a sign at the end of the road and drive away, fast.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      When I originally sat down to write this, it was going to be straight commentary about garage sales, but then it felt too Jay Leno (“What’s the deal with garage sales?”). One of the things I considered was setting one night a year when people can scamper all over town leaving their unwanted goods on other people’s doorsteps, a junk version of “The Purge” (Literally a purge.) I’ve heard there’s some town that does this at the end of summer with zucchinis.
      “Abyss of humanity” is right. Garage sales kind of depress me. We have too much stuff.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      “Sour Times” by Portishead, right now.

  14. Reblogged this on This British-American Life and commented:
    One of our friends from North of the Border, Ross Murray brings an astute but comforting wit to the blogging table. I always look forward to every new post of his, and I don’t want to keep his name a secret.

  15. I like to hold Kantian Garage Sales myself where I argue that the statement “The price of the teapot is not dollar” involves a logical contradiction and therefore the actual price of one dollar holds ‘a priori’ truth. I usually get the dollar and some sideways glances.

  16. Dina Honour says:

    Love this. (Fwiw, dignity is often overrated. Star Wars action figures though? Hang on to those)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      In real life (IRL?), I don’t have action figures. But last month, I did uncover my original 1977 Star Wars poster. Unfortunately, in unfolding it, I tore it a little. However, my eldest daughter doesn’t mind and it now hangs proudly on her apartment wall. Move over, Cool Dads, I win.
      (And thanks.)

  17. Hows about a purple-monkey-dishwasher-auf-Ulm? Sounds like you’re in an existential quandary – and we have a map for that…

  18. wendyblack1 says:

    I’ve never good luck at garage sales, existential or otherwise. I always end up at the garage sale full of old underwear, gold vein mirrors, and macrame. Bleh.

  19. Too funny! We saw a couple having a “we just got evicted” sidewalk sale the other evening. It was a bit depressing, so we walked by. But there was a single sneaker they were trying to sell. I wonder if it was half off.

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